RVA loves

I’ve decided to start sharing some things I love in my fair city, Richmond, VA. Sure I wax nostalgic for my old cities, New York and Chicago, but in all fairness Richmond has a lot to offer and I’m kind of falling in love with it.IMG_2335

I think I’ve mentioned my first love before…bbgb. It’s an independent bookstore specializing in children’s books but has a small selection of adult books and a large selection of my new fav—YA books. The owners curate the selection which simply means they handpick every title. We went in this weekend to buy a birthday gift and ended up buying five books. And that happens each time I go in. The owners and other people who work at the store know the books and make personalized recommendations. I loooove when they walk in the back hall and come out with a book they think I will adore. If you need a gift—any kind from housewarming to birthday gift—this is a place to find something unique. I looked at Justin as we walked out and said, “Just be happy I can’t get down to Carytown more often.” This girl is addicted.

After seeing friends post on Facebook about Sugar Shack Donuts, we tried it last fall. It was love at first taste. Be forewarned, the line can be long but it moves quickly. One donut will fill you up, unless of course you are my over six foot tall fourteen-year-old, then you may need two and the remainder of all of your siblings’ donuts. Sugar Shack is right across from Maggie Walker High School. IMG_2328

My last love is an obvious one, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. It’s obvious and on the list of many but a favorite in our family. We popped in over the weekend and spent time looking at one exhibit—the work of Ryan McGinness. Catch it while it’s in town. The artist picked objects from the museum and turned them into imaged that he screenprinted into a vibrant collage. My description doesn’t do the work justice, but it’s really cool for all ages.IMG_2334

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A travel diary

As a mom of four, I research our trips…a lot. I look for ideas and read reviews until I have all the details. So, I thought I would put together a little diary of our trip to Asheville, NC in hopes that it could/would help other moms out there planning trips with kids. I also thought my mother-in-law might like to read and see pictures of our trip! :)

We arrived at the Grove Park Inn around 3:30 on Monday. What an impressive resort! I highly recommend staying there. Every person we interacted with was kind and helpful. The property was gorgeous and the view to die for. A little tip-self parking is super easy, really convenient to the guest rooms and less expensive than the alternative valet parking. If you’re like us, things get left in the car all the time and having to call the Valet to bring your car to the front is a pain. IMG_2287

After unpacking and exploring a bit, we went downtown to dinner. Our first meal was at Tupelo Honey Cafe. The food was so good I thought they would have to roll me up the hill to get back to the hotel. It is kid friendly with a fab kids’ menu and they use local farmers for their food. If you like grits, have the cheesey goat cheese grits with fried green tomatoes…you will not be sorry! We hurried back to the hotel so the kids could swim in the indoor pool with Justin and my mom and I had a drink in the awesome lobby. IMG_1038

Tupelo Honey Cafe

Tupelo Honey Cafe


We woke up to rain/sleet/snow and obviously very cold temperatures. When I read the weather forecast, I wrongly assumed the coldest temps were for the night but on Tuesday the warmest temp was at 1am. So, Justin and I got day passes to the spa and Grandma took the kids to the pool. The spa…where do I begin? As soon as we got off the elevator, it smelled like heaven…or maybe just not like the hotel room Eva had thrown up all over during the night. Hot tubs, pools and saunas galore and no one under 18 is allowed in. The pools have music piped in underwater and one has thousands of LED lights that look like stars as you float on your back. We spend time there in the morning and then again in the afternoon. As we had an early happy hour drink, snow fell on us in the hot tub. I wasn’t thrilled about the snow as I have had enough of white precipitation but it was beautiful against the mountain backdrop. After our time in the pool, I tried a face cream that I loved called Colostrum Cream. It wasn’t until we were going up in the elevator that I remembered what colostrum was….google it if you’ve forgotten.

In between the spa, we ate at White Duck Taco. Delicious, healthy and cheap…what more could a family want! (A friend recommended tons of great restaurants and I also did some research on SouthernLiving.com and nytimes.com.) Seating is limited but if it’s a nice day there are plenty of picnic tables. Taco fillings ranged from duck to black beans with a little bit of everything in between. Ethan had a fish taco and loved it and the girls had black bean tacos and devoured them. There are a bunch of galleries in the area but the weather wasn’t conducive to checking them out. We did head over for a quick stop to Biltmore Village to check out the shops though and that was pleasant…basically because every store meant a break from the wintry mix. We also went to French Broad Chocolate Lounge. HEAVEN! You have not lived until you’ve had their liquid truffle. They have cakes, trifles, mousse and chocolate bars. Perfect mid-afternoon sweet treat. That night we ate at Asheville Brewing Company. Nothing spectacular, pretty normal bar/brewery food, but I liked ordering—and drinking—the Rocket Girl beer. The highlight of our dinner was the waiter telling our four children there was a ghost at our hotel. They promptly googled it and read the stories and one child, the one who threw up the night before, stayed up half the night scared to close her eyes. Thank goodness she was in Grandma’s room! And the waiter…I hope he has triplets.IMG_1044



On Wednesday we toured the Biltmore Estate. It is beautiful and we had a gorgeous day to see it. The sun was out and the mountains were gorgeous. We toured the house on speed mode because that’s what happens when you have little kids. Then we went to the gardens and finally the village with the animals. The kids loved it all, as did we. After a quick lunch at the bakery in Antler Village, we drove to DuPont State Forest to do some hiking.DSC_0829


My kids wanted to hike the trails from The Hunger Games…don’t judge that they all know what The Hunger Games are! When you have a seven year age span between kids, little ones end up seeing things you never could have imagined and big ones are forced to watch Frozen and listen to Let It Go on repeat. After we found the forest, Google Maps sent us twenty-five miles out of our way, we parked in the Hooker Falls lot and walked the half mile up to Triple Falls. The hike was uphill and then to get to the falls there are dozens of steps. The kids managed just fine and to quote Alex, “It was the most amazing thing I’ve even seen.” The falls were breathtaking and you get to be up close and personal with them. We made our way down and walked over to Hooker Falls-another half mile from our car. Hooker Falls was not too impressive but we accidentally did some rockclimbing that resulted in tears and me thinking we were going to lose at least one child. After that ordeal, we drove up to High Falls and parked in the access lot. Another half mile hike to the falls but we couldn’t or didn’t get up close. High Falls was beautiful though and worth it. DSC_0846



We were exhausted that evening after walking over seven and a half miles during the day, so we ate at Edison in the hotel. The food was good. The beer was great. The view was stunning. We sat outside under heaters and watched the sunset over the mountain. The waitstaff was delightful sharing stories of the city and the resort with us. Oh! I forgot to mention The Pink Pig—the candy store at the resort. A perfect bribe each day for my kids!
On Thursday we went to Asheville Treetops Adventure Park. This was way outside of my comfort zone. We got all suited up with all kinds of climbing equipment and learned how to make our way through the self-guided courses. It’s complicated. The kids really have to learn how to lock and unlock the thing-a-majiggers that are holding them up in the air. They can’t accidentally unlock themselves and fall but the whole system takes some getting used to. I wouldn’t recommend taking kids younger than the twins—7. The little guys and I stuck to the easy course (there are four courses) and that was enough of a challenge for me. I wish they had had a course that was after the beginners and between the next offerings for my little guys. The others were too hard but Alex loved them. He sailed through the sky on a kayak and repeled down a pole. It was a great few hours. IMG_1074




Before leaving Asheville, we ate at 12 Bones. NC bbq at its best! Don’t be intimidated if there’s a line, it moves quickly.

12 Bones

12 Bones

The trip was awesome and a great mix of history, relaxation and adventure. Asheville is a great little urban area with a lot to offer.


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blog1I started following my own path when I was little…out of necessity. Things for me weren’t the same as they were for my friends. My parents divorced and at that time I spent most of my years during school as one of only two kids in my class with divorced parents. No one else understood Wednesday night dinners with Dad and every other weekend at a different house. My life looked different from the others from the get-go.

But then I started to want the cool clothes, the latest in lipstick colors and the whitest Capezios money could buy. I saw these things get handed to lots of people, but I had to save my money for all of them. My mom was a teacher working hard to support our day-to-day life while my dad lived a life that ranged from odd extravagances and random luxuries to completely minimalist. Yes, saving my money did make the Silver City Pink or Frosted Brownie lipstick all the more special but it also made me continue carving my own path. I wanted to be like everyone else but knew in some ways I couldn’t be. And plus, I didn’t want to compete knowing it was a competition in my own head that I could never win. So I looked for my own ways to be me that kept me from being compared with anyone else. I was obsessed with fashion and the latest styles so I would devour Seventeen and Elle magazine putting together outfits I saw on the pages with things I had in my closet. I cut my hair short and kept it that way. Little things set me apart, at least in my mind. To top it all off, I was a smart girl wanting to be part of the cool girls. That left me traversing circles and sometimes feeling left out but often the lack of truly belonging saved me from the true heartache of not being included.

As I’ve aged, the reasons for being on a path that curves differently have changed and I find my soul and my heart craving and charging toward the trail leading the other way. And it leaves me wondering if what I had been feeling all those years ago, the ache that I couldn’t be the same because I was different, was really my soul telling me it wanted to be on its own and all the reasons for being different were merely excuses.



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That mom

I’ve become that mom. I’m now the mom who questions a grade on a project when I believe the expectations were not properly explained. I’m the mom who gets all enraged about the math curriculum or lack of math curriculum in our school district. I’m the mom who e-mails the Little League Association questioning the logic behind games for seven-year-olds that begin at 7:30pm. I’m the mom emailing the baseball coach asking exactly when practice will end because I have three other kids I need to pick up somewhere.

And I don’t want to be that mom. I want to be the easy going, carefree mom who can go with the flow. Hey! I used to be that mom maybe two or three kids ago. Or maybe it has nothing to do with the number of kids and just that seven years ago things were really different. Ahh, I’m so nostalgic for Alex’s first grade year when things were easier and he got to be a kid.

Everything about our lives is on steroids. Our schools and all the testing, our sports and all the competition and even our family life. Every time I jump on to Facebook, which is pretty often, I see another article about one of those issues. We’re fighting Common Core. We’re fighting the craziness of athletics.(LOVE this article!!) And we’re telling other moms to chill out and quit upping the ante on all the holidays and childhood in general. I felt like a slacker mom when I saw all the posts about April Fool’s Day tricks moms played on their kids. The only trick I wanted to play was our day is cancelled go outside and play.

So, we’re all talking about the craziness. We talk about it at the bus stop, on the soccer field, in the bleachers and at Starbucks. We’re all, except a tiny few, in agreement that our society, our world, has lost its sense of what’s right. But, what should we do about it? Ethan’s playing rec ball. I don’t have him on a travel team although it feels like he’s playing for the Red Sox farm team after having four days of baseball in a six day period. I’ve just decided we’re going to do what we can do. The kids need more practice doing math facts and I’m tired of them counting doors and windows in my house for their homework month after month, then we’re going to do math facts instead. 7:30 game is too late for Ethan after a long week of school and a Saturday filled with more games, he’s not going to play. Forget to move the Elf on the Shelf, not going to send Justin down at 3 am to move the silly thing even though everyone else’s elf does crazy antics and the Farley’s elf can hardly move a foot.

Maybe if we start doing what is right for our own family and ignore the noise of society, we will start making a difference. Yes, that means I’m going to be “that mom” possibly forever. Wait, a second, stop the presses! That doesn’t mean I’m going to question everything just the things that live in the realm of ridiculousness, and oh how I wish that realm would stop growing! Teachers need to teach and coaches need to coach and my kids had better follow their rules. I’m not giving them carte blanche to not do their homework. In fact, in most cases I’m just adding to their work. (Please don’t tell them!) They can’t quit or skip practice on a whim, only when the kid who usually falls asleep on the arm of a chair at 8:15 has a game that will “not start a new inning after 9:20.”

I want my kids to be happy adults. I want to sit down for dinner every once and a while instead of having our only family time in the car as I drop kids off at fields. The kicker is we only allow our kids to do one thing at a time. Our kids are not playing multisports at a time. Alex is the only one who does anything extra because he has a job as an umpire.

I’ve been writing this post on and off all week. I have so much emotion tied up in all of this. I just get really scared that we’re harming this generation, our kids. We’ve got to pull back. We’ve got to stop upping the ante. We’ve got to redefine reasonable because we’ve lost any sense of what is reasonable and smart.Image


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Tiny moments of happy

I’m looking for tiny moments of happy to overtake the general whiny and complaining attitude my spring schedule has brought to my life. (It’s hard to believe I’m talking about a spring schedule when it was a high of 39 degrees today.) I was already to sit down and tell you my tale of woe and why I think our world is a little off its rocker. But I decided it wouldn’t help. So, I sat back and thought about my day and the teeny, tiny moments that made me smile even when I felt like it couldn’t be possible.

My heart was happy this morning when my little ten-year-old dressed as Clara Barton recited her speech for her History Lives project. IMG_2236

I got goosebumps at the dentist’s office when I was commiserating with the dentist about the craziness of life (he’s a parent of four as well). We were discussing Ethan’s chipped tooth and I told him I suspected he had eaten the waffle frozen and Gigs piped up and stood up for her twin and said she was certain she heard the click of the toaster which meant he had to have toasted it. She stood up for the guy who finds a way to irritate every last one of her nerves.

I giggled when Ethan asked me if I picked my eyebrows. I told him I plucked them and he thought that was hysterical and told me I looked hot even in my slippers.

I rolled my eyes at myself as I looked down as I was walking out to the car in a long down coat, tights and a pair of slippers. I looked like I was some deranged housewife and knew it must be true if I was actually going to get ice cream during the last of the Polar Vortex. But I went out anyway and cranked up the heat in the car, turned on the seat heaters and went through the drive-thru at Bruster’s. The kids and I shivered through our ice cream and found a piece of happy I thought I might have lost in the midst of the chaos.

And my heart grew three times bigger as I watched Alex show Ethan some things on his phone. No doubt they were highly inappropriate for a seven-year-old’s eyes but they were together and happy and not finding a new way to torment each other.

So I guess that’s all I can do…look for the moments even if they’re tinier than tiny. They’re mine and they’re happy. They make my world feel like it’s spinning properly even if the great big world seems to be off its axis a bit.

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Right now

Right now, my mind feels full like it’s just returned from a vacation and is overwhelmed by re-entry. But the vacation was really the flu and I’m left without memories of palm trees and sandy beaches. Instead, my brain’s foggy and I feel like I’ve lost the plot. Right now, I’m sitting on the couch with my ten-year-old little girl who broke out in hives. I’m wondering if she accidentally consumed tree nuts at our little St. Patrick’s Day happy hour or if she has a new allergy waiting to be discovered. Right now, I’m feeling a little whiny because I just fit Ethan’s baseball schedule on to the calendar and I am annoyed that there are games at 7:15 for seven-year-old kids. But maybe I’m just scared of all the entries on the spring calendar and wishing my boys preferred sports that were timed instead of one with very few time constraints. Right now, I’m obsessed with MH370. I can’t get enough of the articles on the internet. I’m waiting anxiously for updates and I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a loved one of one of the passengers. Like the mom with two little kids who’s waiting for word of her husband, the father of her children. Right now, I’m reading and re-reading book three hoping it’s ready to go out in the world. Right now, I’m hoping this will be the last time this season my world will be covered in snow. Right now, I’m thinking about St. Patrick’s Day twenty-one years ago and that early Spring day at Notre Dame that brought me Justin. And I’m thinking about how little tiny seemingly innocent moments can change your path forever. And I’m realizing how few times you realize the moments are the life changing ones until you have some hindsight. Right now, I’m thinking about Looking for Alaska and the turn the plot just took that I never expected. Right now, I’m hoping I’m about to bundle up in my long down coat for the last time this winter as I make my way out to the bus to get my little twin leprechauns. And when I come back in I hope my find feels a little lighter and ready to face the evening.stpat

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Let them eat cake

Within four days last week we purchased five cakes. The aftermath is sitting on the counter in a Costco box waiting for someone in need of a nibble of something sweet to take a bite. Last week was the polar opposite of this week in so many ways. 73 degrees, scheduled to the minute, emotional stress and busy moments juxtaposed with our lazy, cold snow days lounging around in our pajamas writing words, reading words and playing board games all while watching HGTV. But all of these days, even the ones tinged with tears, had a common thread of love and happiness weaving through every moment. I love these little people even when they make me crazier than crazy and basketballs are whizzing through the air and siblings are arguing like they’re arch enemies. They are me and my soul is filled up with their freckles, grins, hearty laughs and tears. And that is what this life is all about…..


















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I hear you!

I hear you! I struck a nerve with the math post. I want to thank all the people who commented on social media, by email and in person. I especially want to thank all of the teachers who contacted me. I understand your daily struggle to implement a curriculum that is being forced on you and doing what is best for your students. It is an impossible situation and on top of that I know it is hard to speak out against those in charge. As I said in my previous post, my kids are so lucky to have the best teachers. And I am lucky to know so many fabulous teachers as well.

Let me share a little of what I learned last week…

Conceptual math is not working in our classrooms as a way to teach kids basic math facts. You told me that over and over again. It is a valid strategy to teach AFTER the kids have learned their facts. The research is pretty clear on this…email me if you’d like a link to some of the research I’ve read. 6,7 and 8 year olds simply are not old enough and do not have the foundation to understand these concepts. When we compare ourselves with other countries that use that method, somehow we ignore the fact that the other countries have already taught the basics first and usually at a younger age.

I spoke with several groups of parents last week and we are unable to pinpoint the exact year math changed for students in our area but we believe it started to change for kids who are currently in middle school. Ironically, our middle school put out a call for parents to come in as math tutors last week. Something none of us have seen in our years at the school. Parent after parent has told me their kids are getting hung up on their facts. They get stuck, worn out and defeated before they get to the meat of the problem because they have spent too much time doing the basics. They don’t have the numbers stuck in their heads like they need to and the struggle is leading parents to take their kids to one of the many math tutoring places that have popped up around us. And that is the common theme I heard over and over again…

So what are we to do? Well, I think talking about it and raising awareness will help. The teachers are doing all they can. Maybe if we, the parents, continue to raise the issue with the people who write the curriculum it will change. I know the teachers are raising their concerns when they are able.

But there is another thing the parents of the 2-3-1-1-3 have to be aware of…there’s a special School Board Election on March 18th. I reached out to all five candidates and asked them what they thought about the math curriculum and the lack of focus on memorizing basic math facts. Three candidates answered and I have continued to have conversations with two of them. Here’s a link to an article about all five candidates.

Dianne Mallory-Coble is one of the candidates running for school board. We have exchanged emails and hope to meet at a forum soon. Here was her response to my blog post…
Julie, thanks for reaching out to me and inviting me to check out your blog. First, I admire your discipline to even have a blog. Second, I enjoyed your refreshing way of sharing your stories.

Anyway, what you wrote about how your children were learning to add made me very curious. Just as you said, and I agree, much has changed in our classrooms over both short and longer periods of time.

One of my values, as a candidate and if elected as a school board member, is to be knowledgeable and to share what I learn with our community. So, I took advantage of an opportunity I had when visiting one of the our Midlothian elementary schools today. I asked the principal about how your young children were being taught how to add and subtract using ‘doubles’. I also checked with my daughter, who is doing her student teaching and who will be endorsed to teach K through 12. While they both answered in different ways, they both said that way of teaching adding and subtraction was one of several instructional strategies to teach young children how to do the math operations of adding and subtracting. So, what I gathered is that ‘double’ is one of a number of ways children are taught to add and subtract. I wonder what other strategies are being used at your school, too?

Just as you described the wonderful teachers at your children’s school, I saw many wonderful teachers (and administrators) at the four Midlothian schools I saw today. Our school system is worth making the highest investment we can.

Julie, thanks for making me do some research in order to some information about your observation regarding how your children are learning. You helped me to become more knowledgeable.

Here is the link to Dianne Mallory-Coble’s website.

Gary Powers sent me a copy of a speech he gave at the beginning of a forum last week that I’d like to share with you.
My name is Gary Powers. I am an Independent Candidate for the Midlothian School Board seat and would like your vote on March 18. I have lived in Midlothian since 2005 with my wife Jennifer and our son Trey. I have been blessed thought my career to be active in the communities where I have lived. In Midlothian, I am the Charter Secretary for the James River Rotary Club, a member of Masonic Lodge 211, a member of the Walton Park Pool, Secretary for the Grove HOA, and a periodic instructor at the Life Long Learning Institute. In addition, for the past five years I have been the PTA County Council Liaison for JB Watkins & now Midlothian Middle School where my son is in 6th grade.
Recently, my wife and I became concerned when we realized that our son was getting really good grades but was having trouble with spelling. Getting really good grades, but didn’t know his grammar well. Getting really good grades but could not sign his full name or read cursive well. And even though he was medically diagnosed with ADHD we couldn’t get help from the school system because in their own words, “his grades were too good”.
As a result of our concerns, I started talking with other parents and discovered that they shared similar concerns about their children’s education. I reached out to parents, educators, and Principals in Chesterfield County so I could learn as much as I could about their experiences. One educator told me flat out that they are teaching kids to solve math problems backwards on multiple choice tests in preparation for the SOLs. Really, solving math problems backwards.
I understand that students need to learn test taking skills but I believe we need to get back to the basics, focus on critical thinking skills, and not how to teach to the test. Students need to do math without calculators, spelling without spell check, and learn cursive so that they can sign their full name and will always be able to read the original Constitution of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, and letters from their grandparents. This will give them a connection to our heritage, our history, and the principals on which this great nation was founded. Focusing on the basics will provide our children with a solid educational foundation, the ability to pass SOL’s without studying to the test, and will prepare them to utilize technology in school, within the work force, and for the rest of their lives. Most importantly this position is about being and Independent voice, your voice, and not a political voice in a nonpartisan position.
Today, I would not only like to ask for your vote on March 18 but also your help and support to make sure we do everything we can as a community to provide a solid educational foundation for our students. The future of our children starts here, starts now, and starts with us. Thank you.

Here is a link to Gary Power’s website.

Bob Olsen commented as well. His comment was as follows…
I have to agree with you. I believe the” old way” is the right way. Kids should learn their math facts. I would call the ” new method” a strategy for those who can’t remember the math facts, they should have been memorizing in the first place. I will ask my daughters about it since between the two of them they have 4 in elementary right now.

Here is the link to Bob Olsen’s website.

Now let me tell you what I liked about this conversation we started. I loved that all three candidates responded to me. I enjoyed the exchanges I had with two of them and was quite impressed that one took time to do a fair amount of research on the topic. It made me feel like they were interested in having a partnership and will be actively involved in the community and out listening to our concerns.

I’ve always wanted to get involved in elections of different sorts but the big national elections leave me feeling powerless and like I cannot affect real change. The School Board election is a perfect way for us to make changes in our daily lives and make a better life for our kids. I look forward to participating in a forum with the candidates soon and welcome an opportunity to meet with any of the candidates. Thank you to those who have taken the time to get in touch with me.


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I thought I knew how to add

I thought I knew how to do simple addition but it appears to have changed in the last few years. I’m no longer capable of teaching my kids how to do math—at least the way they learn how to do it at school. And, boy oh boy, am I ever at odds with the new math curriculum and methodology that my kids are using. Now might be a good time to tell you I have my bachelor’s degree in psychology and my master’s degree in elementary education. I have taught first and fourth grade, I now teach preschool and have tutored kids in math at almost every level. But most importantly, I have four kids—two six-year-olds, a nine-year-old and a fourteen-year-old.

When my oldest was in elementary school, there was a great emphasis placed on math facts. He had weekly fact tests to assess his skills and quickly learned all of his addition, subtraction and multiplication facts. My fourth grader did not learn her math facts that way and neither have my other two. The curriculum has turned more conceptual and visual and I believe it is doing them a great disservice. Here are some examples of the “new math” for those who don’t have young children…
When a child sees a problem like 7+8 they are taught to think the double of 7 is 14 and 1 more is 15.
When a child sees 8+3 they are taught to think take 2 to make 10 and then add 1 more and you get 11.
When a child sees 13-8 they are supposed to start with 8 and say 2 more makes 10. 3 more gets me to 13 so 2 more and 3 more is 5.
**These examples are based on and taken from a county Math sheet that came home with report cards this week.**
The goal of this program is to help a child get the math answer in three seconds or less without resorting to counting.

So, I’ll admit my evidence is only based on what I see and I have not spent that much time researching why the methods have changed. But I cringe when I hear my kids using these methods. When I hear them saying, “Well, the double of 8 is 16 so one more is…” I stop them and review the facts because I can’t understand why it’s okay to only memorize the facts for doubles. And clearly, using this method takes longer than three seconds especially for subtraction. At this point when my fourth grader is adding simple numbers it is for a multi-step problem. The addition is usually the first step and it needs to be done quickly and accurately to move on to the next part of the equation. A child simply cannot do algebraic multi-step math problems and get hung up thinking about addition and subtraction this way when they are solving for x or doing more complicated math. The facts need to be automatic and drilled into their brains. 99% of the time, I believe rote memorization is not necessary as I am a firm believer in developing a child’s ability to think critically. Math facts are the only thing that needs to be memorized.

I know all children learn differently. I see that daily in the classroom and I see it constantly at home. One of my six-year-olds can do any type of math in their head, can count by 13s and answers problems that I ask our nine-year-old daughter before she has a chance. For this child, it doesn’t matter which way the math is presented. But my other two need the confidence of knowing the basic facts. The method prescribed by the new curriculum has a greater opportunity for error than simple memorization.

I have been silently enraged by this new math for the last three years as I watched the pendulum shift. I don’t think I have the gumption to try and work to change anything. Instead, the little Farley kids have spent their exorbitant amount of snow days doing math facts. The other day as I was trolling Facebook, I found this blog post. IT HURTS MY BRAIN! If the brain development research the blog links to are correct, this whole new method is developmentally inappropriate to begin with.

Math fact fluency is non-negotiable and the only way kids are going to get that is by practicing their facts. I know it is important for the kids to be excited about math and not bored but the greatest concern should be that they are learning their math. I love this quote from the University of Chicago’s website, “Knowing the basic facts is as important to mathematics as knowing basic words by sight is to reading.”

Before I finish I need to say a word about teachers…especially my kids’ teachers. They are the best of the best. They work endless hours trying to negotiate what works in the classroom and what they are told the need to do. The constant testing, especially in the early grades, they are faced with is another source of great aggravation for me and I cannot imagine how they deal with it. They are forced to teach to the test and since kids are required to explain all of their math answers now they need to teach some sort of methodology. Teachers’ plates are piled way too high and the Farley kids are fortunate to have passionate and compassionate teachers.

Now it’s your turn…set me straight. Prove me wrong. Tell me this new methodology is going to lead to greatly advanced math students and I’m worrying for nothing because right now, this mom is worried.


Filed under A day in the life

A little tease

Here is chapter two or three of Another Tomorrow. I can’t wait to bring you the rest of it! Remember, this has not been officially edited…in other words, be kind!

“The cable box is in my house. Of course I have the authority to change the cable package!” yelled Jenny.
“Ma’am, I’m sorry but your name isn’t listed on the account. I only have a Matthew Curtis listed.”
“Matthew Curtis was my husband. He doesn’t live here anymore.”
“But he’s the one I need to talk to in order to change your movie package.”
“He doesn’t care what kind of movie package I have! He had an affair. He’s gone. I kicked him out and I’m not asking him if I can change my cable package!”
“I’m sorry but he’s the only one who can make this change.”
“Then I want to cancel my service.”
“Ma’am, Matthew Curtis is the only one who can cancel the service.”
“But I pay the bill!”
“I understand you’re the one who pays the bill. I can only make changes if I’m speaking to the person whose name is on the account.”
Jenny slammed the phone down. She was thirty-eight-years-old and the cable company wouldn’t let her make a change without the authorization of her philandering husband. She felt like she was in middle school again trying to prove that it was really her mom’s signature on her Earth Science test and that she hadn’t plagiarized it. Why did he still have power over any part of her life? He was the one who chose to ignore their marriage and she was the one who seemed to be paying for all of his mistakes. Jenny needed to cut some of her finances. She spent an inordinate amount of money on the cable bill and was determined to get it cut down, but she dreaded calling the cable company.
In order to try and get her mind off of the fact that sometimes she felt powerless, she logged onto her email. Three SignUp Genius emails sat in her inbox. One reminded her to bring the snack to basketball, another told her to send in a jar of cinnamon for Colonial Day in Zach’s class and the last reminded her it was her turn to be the Mystery Reader in Ava’s second grade class. Heather, her boss and her best friend, had forwarded her a couple of emails from people requesting information about Heather’s book and appearances. She’d deal with those later. And then there was the email she enjoyed the most, her horoscope. Jenny used her horoscope as her mantra and read it every single day frequently before she even got out of bed – especially now that her life had taken a topsy turvy turn. But today, she realized she still hadn’t read it.

Sagittarius – The new moon in your sign. Today is the perfect time to get rid of the old and bring on the new.

And with those twenty-two words, the final words were written in the last chapter of her marriage. That was the only sign she needed. Well, that coupled with the call to Verizon and her inability to control her television with Matt’s name on the account. It was time to end things with him for good. The months of wrestling and wondering if it was worth it to leave him were over. Staying with him because it was hard to lift the Christmas boxes on to the top shelf of the garage, too quiet after the kids went to bed or because she wanted to stay on his health insurance were not good enough reasons. Her ego had been screaming at her to get rid of him for good. No woman with any self esteem would stay with a man who had an affair. Now her heart was telling her it was time to start over, and her horoscope and Verizon were screaming it at her too.
The phone rang just as she had settled everything in her mind.
“Hey. How are you this morning?” It was Heather.
“Fine. I’m about to head out for yoga before I make my way to your place.”
“Good. Will you be hot, sweaty and stinky when you arrive?”
“Can’t wait.”
“By the way, I made up my mind. I’m done with Matt. I don’t want to drag this out any longer.”
“What made you decide that today?”
“My horoscope.”
“Are you serious?”
“It gave me the push I needed.”
“I would have given you that push a long time ago but I’m glad you got it somehow. I was getting nervous after you spent Christmas together.”
“You know that was just for the kids. I needed to do this on my own time. Now that my head’s clear I need to figure out what the next steps are.”
“I’ll help you in any way I can. I hope you know that.”
“I do. Thanks! I’m off to hot yoga.”
Jenny grabbed her yoga mat and her bag and made her way to the door. On the way out of the garage she stepped on a cat’s tail.
“Shit! The cat!” yelled Jenny. She couldn’t remember the last time she had fed the cat or seen it. She barely remembered its name. The cat was Matt’s. It was an outdoor cat and spent most of its time outside because it didn’t like kids. Jenny opened the garage door to let the cat in, then ran in and filled a bowl of food for it. She quickly closed the door and jumped in her car, not wanting to be late for yoga and thankful that as far as she knew, the cat was the only living thing she had forgotten about.
Yoga was the only place she found any peace lately. Phones weren’t allowed in the studio so she was completely free of all interruptions. She knew if the kids needed anything they could call Heather or Matt. They were safely at school and a ninety minute class twice a week was her reward. Reward for what, she was not always sure.
Heather called again as soon as she got to Huguenot Road, a mile from the studio.
“Hey, I’m going to need someone other than Peter to read the first draft of my novel. Are you up for that?”
“Sure Heather, we’ll talk when I get there.”
“I know you’re on your way to yoga but we always get involved in other things and I keep forgetting to ask you.”
“No prob. See you in about two hours.”
Her new novel? Of course, she had a billion kids, the hottest guy in the county, maybe the world, and she had written a new novel…probably in her spare time while she was waiting for the bus to come or in between loads of laundry. Jenny couldn’t help thinking it. Yes, Heather was her best friend and she had been through so much but everything worked out a little too perfectly for her sometimes. Who trips and breaks their ankle in the middle of the street and ends up falling in love with the guy who rescues her? And the guy happens to be a famous author? Really? Her life had gone from nightmare in the 2-3-1-1-3—when her thirty-eight-year-old husband died unexpectedly—to the biggest happily ever after of the millennium. Jenny knew the pain Heather had felt. She was there when Heather saw her dead husband’s body in the hospital. She rubbed her back when she banged his chest willing him to wake up. Jenny knew all that but still the too-good-to-be-true things that seemed to fall out of the sky into Heather’s lap made Jenny roll her eyes.
She needed to find a real job. Working for Heather and Peter just wasn’t going to cut it. Peter had offered her health insurance and every other benefit she could imagine, but Jenny didn’t like feeling as if she were taking handouts from her friends. Her problem over the last few months had been being afraid to make it on her own. She didn’t know if she could. Most days it seemed easier to get back together with Matt and forget this whole thing happened. But, thankfully, she had her pride and wouldn’t let herself do that. Matt had been nothing but pleasant lately. He doted on Jenny’s every need and even tried to anticipate what she would need next. One day when she got back from Heather’s, he was changing all the outside light bulbs. They hadn’t even gone out but he was putting in all new bulbs. He mowed the lawn, fertilized, aerated and did all the stuff she never understood or cared about. He made himself useful. But it didn’t matter. She still couldn’t get over the fact that he had cheated on her…with Victoria no less. He never had any problem owning up to it but there was no way Jenny could get past the fact that he slept with another woman. It irked her to hear him talk about how Victoria manipulated him. Couldn’t he have been a little stronger? He was like her puppet. He let her control him and call the shots. He was a puppy who turned up at Victoria’s door anytime she asked him to. How could he have let Victoria take away his power? Heather and Jenny had spent many hours discussing it. Heather could not understand why Matt was acting like a girl. Matt swore he ended the relationship as soon as Heather spotted them at the bar that fate-filled Saturday afternoon. To Jenny, it didn’t really matter that it ended. He only ended it because he had been caught. Maybe he had been scared of Victoria and what she would do but he still had sex with another woman on their family room floor and that was a hard pill to swallow any way you mashed it up.
Jenny took a few cleansing breaths before she walked into the studio to clear her mind of all her stress and negative thoughts. She wrote her name on the sign-in sheet and headed for the locker rooms to set her bag in one of the lockers. She placed her mat in her usual spot in the back left corner along the windows. She liked to be in the back so no one was behind her watching her in compromising yoga positions. The class was filling up quickly. The mats were separated by mere inches. In front of Jenny was a man scrunched up in child’s pose. He stretched his arms over his head and side to side. Jenny stretched her legs out in front of her. The teacher walked in and turned on the lights welcoming everyone to class and inviting them to stand up. Jenny always got nervous when guys were in front of her because they had so much more to cover up down there than women did. She never wanted to catch a glimpse of anything extra but this guy seemed to be adequately covered with spandex shorts under his running shorts. She settled into the poses and focused on her breath. As they moved into the floor series and wind relieving pose, the guy let out all of his wind, and not from his mouth. The teacher focused the class on their breathing but Jenny wanted to stop breathing so she couldn’t smell it. The teacher also gave the class a gentle reminder about not eating anything two hours prior to class. The teacher didn’t say it but that was obviously what this guy had done, and from the smell of it he must have had a Big Mac. Bikram Yoga and Big Macs didn’t mix. Jenny gathered herself and got through the rest of the class. She wanted to leave quickly and didn’t spend much time relaxing on her back in Savasana but made her way to the locker room instead. She grabbed her bag, threw her sweatshirt on and glanced at her phone. No messages. That was a good thing. She went to the front of the studio to sign out and purchase a container of coconut water only to see that the wind blower was standing at the water cooler with a towel draped around his too sweaty neck.
“Good class today?” he asked.
“Yeah, it was,” replied Jenny.
“Want to grab a coffee at Einstein’s?”
Jenny’s eyes popped out of her head. Was he asking her out? Was coffee a date? “No, I have to go to work. Thanks though.”
“Well, maybe another time. I’ve seen you at this class before. Do you come to this class everyday?”
“No not everyday.” And now I won’t be coming to this class at this time anymore. I don’t need a farting yoga stalker.
“Well, next time we’re both here maybe we can grab some coffee. I’ll bump your phone to mine and we can exchange contact info.”
Bump my phone? I don’t want to bump anything with this guy. “Sorry. I don’t bump,” said Jenny as she walked out the door as fast as her sweaty and tired legs would take her, skipping the coconut water in order to get away as fast as possible from this guy.

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